Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shoe Review: Nike Air Zoom Vomero+ 4

It's that time of year again! Nike released yet another update to the lightweight Air Zoom Vomero+ (part of the Bowerman line of shoes). The Air Zoom Vomero has been my favorite shoe since 2006.

For me, it's a reminder that the Tahoe Super Triple is coming up again.
Note: you can sign up for the Triple now with a 14% discount using the "MayStimulus14" promo code.
The Vomero versions line up nicely with the Tahoe Super Triple editions. I ran the inaugural Super Triple (2006) in version 1 of the shoe, the second in version 2, and I set last year's course record (20:32) in version 3. This year, I plan to break that record again in version 4 of this super comfortable shoe, which has become a sort of lucky charm (aiming for a sub-19 finish).

I tried out my brand new pair of Nike Air Zoom Vomero 4s at the recent Spring Run 10K in Nevada City and they did not disappoint. I did not like Air Zoom Vomero version#3 as much as version#2, but version#4 feels as comfortable as version#2 again, with an even better fit. My version#3 shoes (and I wore quite a few pairs) wore out faster than version 2. Since I only just bought the new version, it is too early to tell how these will hold up.

Here is my review:
  • Cushiness: Excellent. Or, as Sean Meissner likes to call it, "uber-excellent!")
  • Fit: Excellent. This shoe is ready to race the minute you put it on.
  • Toughness: Good. This shoe is not super-protective, but the cushioning protects the bottom of your feet really well.
  • Flexibility: Excellent. This shoe is very flexible.
  • Side-to-side Stability: Excellent. This shoe is very light but still provides the excellent side-to-side stability you would expect in a road shoe. This part was better in version 2, not as good in version 3, but back again in version 4.
  • Grip: Good. This shoe handled great on the road and dry trails. They are not trail shoes, but to give you an idea, I ran the entire 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in one go in one pair of Air Zoom Vomero #2s (I picked them mainly for the light weight and superior cushioning).
  • Switchback Handling: N/A. I have not taken this out on the trail yet, but this should be OK.
  • Weight: Excellent. This is the lightest shoe I have come across that you can ultra-distance road and trail distances on.
  • Price: OK. A bit high at $130, but worth every penny of it. Check the Nike outlet stores for better prices. Nike sales reps: contact me for my "free samples" mailing address ;-)
  • Overall: This is a great update!

Version 4 is not on Amazon yet, but here are some links to some good deals on versions 2 & 3

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Turning on the Afterburners at the Spring Run 10K

On Saturday, Sean and I drove to Nevada City to run in the 23rd Annual Spring Run 5K and 10K. This was already the second race in the Gold Country Grand Prix. I had missed this year's first run--the Daffodil Run--last week, because I was running the River City Marathon that day.
Before the Start
One interesting thing about consistently recording data about training runs and races is that you can see trends and patterns. Something that I started noticing only this year is that I typically run a really fast 10K training run five to seven days after a long race (marathon or longer). For example, I ran some very fast 10K training runs exactly 6 days after the Pony Express 100K and the Rucky Chucky 50K earlier this year. Those runs were not supposed to be tempo runs or speedwork, but everything just felt good and I was able to easily handle the fast pace.
Larry Defeyter (4th in the 5K) Rounds the Final Turn in the Steep Uphill Finish
Since the Spring Run 10K was held just 6 days after the marathon, I could put this "afterburner" theory to the test in a real race setting. I felt recovered from the 2:59:50 marathon, but had not run that much yet, so it was hard to tell how everything would hold up at race pace. Either way, it was a gorgeous day and it was great to see all the familiar faces from our local running community and fun to catch up after a long winter.
Thomas McAtee Wins the 5K in 18:34
I warmed up with Larry Defeyter who was running the 5K. We caught up with Andy Harris, who has run every single one of the 23 Spring Runs. Wow! This was (only) my fourth straight year of running this race, but that was enough to know the hilly course pretty well (See elevation profile).
Steve Bond Powers Up the Final Hill to the Finish
Chris sat this race out to install a dining room floor, so I actually had a shot at winning the 10K overall. The race started out fast with a steep downhill and after a little more than half a mile I found myself in first place at the 5K/10K split. I ran the first mile in 5:45 and then hit mile 2 at exactly 12 minutes and mile 3 at 18 minutes, clocking 6-minute miles comfortably. At the turnaround, I saw that Neel was not too far behind me, followed by Nevada Union's XC coach Sarah Freitas.
Sean on His Way Back in the 5K.
Mile 4 came in 24 minutes (still running 6:00), but keeping that pace would not be possible due to the steep hills on the way back. I hit the 5-mile mark in 31:10. Hmm, it would be cool to run this course in sub-40, but then again, the last part was mostly uphill and there was nobody pushing from behind to give that little bit of extra motivation.
Mike Buzbee Picks Out a Tomato Plant, Included in the Race Entry--Very Cool!
When I hit the 6-mile mark in 38 minutes, I knew I really had a shot at breaking 40 minutes (according to Andy Harris, only about 20 people had broken 40 in the history of the race) and I started speeding up. Larry joined me for a few minutes and he kept an eye out for people coming from behind (Thanks Larry!). I crossed the line in first place in 39:58. I guess my afterburner theory of suddenly running fast a week after a long race is correct; I might just plan some more short races like that in the future!
Chatting with Neel and Sarah Freitas (2nd and 3rd in the 10K respectively)
Sean, who just started running again after a long snowboarding season, finished the 5K in about 30 minutes. After the race, we picked up the hardware and joined Steve Bond and Andy Harris and his girlfriend for a great breakfast at the South Pine Cafe (voted best breakfast in Nevada County for good reason!
Steve Bond and Andy Harris (Finished the Spring Run 12 and 23 times respectively)
All in all, it was a fun way to spend Saturday morning. Thanks to all Terry Boyer and the volunteers that made this race a success. I'll be back next year.
Next Up: The Jenkinson Lake 50K in two weeks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sub-3 at the River City Marathon!

On Sunday, I joined about 135 marathoners and around 225 half marathoners for the first annual River City Marathon/Half Marathon in Sacramento. This point-to-point race was held on the bike path along the American river from Negro Bar in Folsom to Discovery Park, close to downtown.

My one and only goal for this race was to break 3 hours for the first time. Training went well and at one point I was playing around with the idea of shooting for an even faster time, but I really wanted to "knock the bastard off" first, before attempting anything even faster only to hit the wall and miss both targets. Add to that a prediction of roughly 90-degree heat (the race started at 7, so the heat would only play a role in the last hour or so) and sub-3 would be challenging enough.

I did one 13-mile training run on the course two weeks prior to the start and I had run other sections of the trail in past Helen Klein 50K/50M races, so I knew what to expect: a flat and fast course.
The Finish
Prior to the race, I was fortunate to get training and racing advice from all kinds of great runners. Alan and Scott shared some of their training schedules and George Farmer and V. Neelakantan turned me on to some interesting training techniques such as the fast-finish progression long runs. Marathon Junkie Chuck Engle, who actually runs sub-3 pace teams, recommended not to bank seconds or minutes but instead shoot for dead-even splits all the way, with a 1:30 first half and so that's what I set out to do. I soaked up some final advice from Haile Gebrselassie and I was ready to go!

The marathon started promptly at 7 a.m. In the first 5 or 6 miles I moved from 12th place to 4th and then moved into 2nd place at the one and only climb of the course (a bridge over the American River). First place was out of sight at this point, but I could care less--I was just focusing on maintaining even 6:52 spits and any sort of placing would be a bonus.

I hit the half marathon at exactly 1:30 and had to weave my way through over 200 half marathoners. By mile 16 or 17 I caught up to the front runner, who had slowed down a bit. From here on I would be paced by the "lead-bike," operated by super-fast runner and volunteer Brad Lael, which was kind of exciting.

I continued to pick up some half marathoners and got into a great rhythm, always hovering right around 6:52. I chatted briefly with Brad, but then tried to focus on my breathing again. Vicky, Sean, and Rocky would meet me at the finish line and Sean had brought his bike and he met me with some Gatorade with about three miles to go, which was just what I needed. Two weeks earlier, Rocky had volunteered to crew for me on his bike for the entire marathon, but unfortunately he broke his arm snowboarding.
The Hardware...
Miles 18 thru 24 felt the easiest of the entire race for me, but I had to give it my all in the last two miles to make it under 3 hours. with 1 mile to go, I started speeding up in order to make sure I would not need yet another marathon to break 3 hours. I ran a 6:10 mile and knew I had it locked up when I made the last turn with the clock in sight. I almost missed the turn to the finish chute, but fortunately Rocky yelled out that I had to make a right turn off the bike path and I crossed the line with 10 seconds to spare (2:59:50)! Naturally, I was really excited about the time (mission accomplished) and it was a nice bonus to win the race overall, of course!

Nachos!--a nice second (or third) post race meal at Dos Coyotes in Folsom
Although the course is USATF certified for the distance, it appeared to be roughly 0.15 miles longer on my GPS watch and I heard others say the same. (distances ranged between 26.35 and 26.66). It turned out to be a hot day, so even though this was a fast and flat marathon, hats off to all the finishers (especially first-timers) who were out there in the heat for many hours! Thanks to Robert and Lisa Mathis for putting on another great event on a much larger scale than the usual ultras and to all the volunteers who came out to help.

Next Up: The Spring Run 10K in Nevada City on the 25th of April.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Insider" Treadmill Maintenance Tips

Yesterday, it was time for our annual treadmill checkup, which is part of the extended service contract we bought with our treadmill. The repairman that came out was very knowledgeable and let me in on a few bits of interesting information that I thought I would share.

Most surprisingly, your treadmill works the hardest--and draws the most power--when you're walking between 3 and 4.5 miles an hour (both feet hitting the deck at the same time provides more friction). Treadmills apparently love speed, but I have always avoided speedwork at 11 MPH on the treadmill out of fear that I would break it. Well, those days are over!

  • Wear clean shoes--preferably a dedicated treadmill pair--to avoid dirt accumulation under the rollers and other parts.
  • Use a dedicated electrical outlet. For example, don't share your treadmill's outlet with a fridge, freezer, or an entertainment center.
  • Increase and decrease the speed gradually.
  • Unplug the treadmill after use to stop the electrical charge from heating up certain parts of the motor.
  • Keeping the treadmill outdoors or in an outdoor garage may void your warranty. This is why the first question you are asked when you call for service is "Where is your treadmill located?"
  • Plug the treadmill into a single-outlet wall surge protector (not in a surge protected extension cord with multiple outlets). If your treadmill breaks due to a power outage or power spike, it is easy for the repair folks to see that it was "surged" and that can void your warranty.
  • And...if you are a treadmill repair person, try to use those treadmills once in a while. Ironically, a high percentage of fitness equipment repair people seem to die an early death due to heart failures.
Here is another interesting fact: Apparently, the fitness industry banks on the fact that a whopping 85% of the equipment they sell will never be used. Wow! At least I am putting our treadmill to good use. Yesterday, I had a great treadmill training run: 2 miles warmup at 6.5MPH, followed by 2 miles at 9.1MPH, 1@6, 2@9.5, 1@6, 2@10, 1@6, 0.5@11, and 05. cooldown.

After all, I prefer to run outdoors, but sometimes the treadmill is a good alternative. Especially for flat speedwork, because there simply aren't that many flat places around here.
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